SAN ANTONIO -- There was hand-wringing, even some flat out panic, when General Motors unwrapped its next-generation Chevrolet Silverado in December.
Many dealers, enthusiasts and writers questioned whether the pickup's design went far enough. There was also disappointment at the lack of a sexy technology to hit back at the Ford F-150's EcoBoost V-6 or the Ram 1500's new air suspension system.
Did GM whiff on its most critical vehicle launch since its 2009 bankruptcy?
Not even close.
That's my answer after driving the new Silverado at a media launch here this week, and seeing hordes of them on the highways of pickup country.
The exterior changes on the 2014 Silverado, which hits showrooms by early June, are striking when parked aside the outgoing model. The front end is blockier, more chiseled and modern looking.
A critic might sniff that it looks too much like the current truck. But the average owner of, say, a 2007 Silverado with 140,000 miles on it? I'll bet his take is something closer to: "Wow, that's way sweeter than my truck."
The cabin is as quiet as some premium sedans. The typical pickup jostling is all but damped away. The 5.3-liter engine's cylinder deactivation system, which saves fuel, shifts from V-8 to four-cylinder mode imperceptibly.
A disclaimer: I'm not a pickup driver. To backstop my impressions, I pulled up the 2014 Silverado review from Mark Williams at pickuptrucks.com.
His conclusion: "This is probably the single biggest model improvement over the vehicle it replaces in a long time."
So GM can celebrate, right? Not for long.
Ford's Atlas Concept from this year's Detroit auto show hints at bold styling for the next-gen F-150, due out next year. Ford is rumored to be deploying way more aluminum in the 2015 F-150 for big fuel economy gains. And already, the re-engineered 2013 Ram, as one GM insider put it, is "damn good."
GM eventually will need some of that sexy technology to keep pace -- a diesel engine, maybe, or a turbocharged V-6. Definitely an eight-speed transmission.
But for now, the sky is not falling on GM headquarters.